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Wednesday Round-up - the 2008 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

February 2008
[ Click here for index to other months ]


Sue Courtney's Fine Wine Wednesday tasting notes were recorded for First Glass Wines and Spirits in Takapuna for publication on their website. These notes are archival and may have been deleted from their site by now.
Some of the prices may be 'specials'. Check out www.first-glass.co.nz for current availability and pricing. New Zealand readers can purchase the wines online from there.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 27 Feb 2008
Gold Medal Wines
Wines were tasted blind.

Lonestone Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2006
A pale lemon coloured, peachy smelling Chardonnay with a mealy richness and a hint of toast to the aroma, it's rounded and smooth to the taste with spicy oak, juicy stonefruit, a lightly buttery creamy texture, a mealy undercurrent and a touch of citrus adding brightness to the toasty finish. Ripe and appealing and dinking well right now. 14% alc. $17.99 special. Screwcap.

Rose Tree Cottage Gisborne Chardonnay 2005
Served slightly chilled on the night, this golden yellow wine emits mealy, savoury oak aromas and is initially quite zesty in the palate. It's a big, rich, oaky, flavoursome number with a delicious mealy savouriness balancing the tropical fruit, toasty oak and butterscotch creaminess with a delivery that is smooth and seamless throughout and a mouthfilling finish that is bright, long and deliciously persistent. 14.5% alc. $19.99 special. Screwcap.

Charles Wiffen Marlborough Chardonnay 2005
A bright gemmy, medium gold colour in the glass, the aromas and flavours are an island apart from the previous wine. Lightly buttery on the nose with tropical fruit and well integrated honeyed oak, it tastes bright, fresh, juicy and zesty with loads of tropical fruit, pineapple and melon supported by toasty oak and spicy yeast lees flavours. 14.5% alc. $20.99 special. Screwcap.

Crossroads Destination Series Hawke's Bay Gewurztraminer 2005
Served lightly chilled wine, this light straw gold-coloured wine emits freshly cut pineapple aromas that give way to more traditional gewurz scents of musk and flowers. With it's bright, clean, delicious, fresh flavour, it's so juicy, light, soft and fruity with orange blossom and exotic spices, an increasing richness, a delicate oiliness and a beautifully balanced persistent finish that leaves an aura of rose petals, hand cream and musk. When its lightly chilled like this, it is not in your face or OTT, it’s a beautifully elegant and finely poised wine and just so delicious to drink. Five Stars and No. 1 in Cuisine Aromatics Tasting 2007. The white wine bargain of the night. 12% alc. $15.99. Screwcap.

Montana Terroir Series Forgotten Valley Pinot Noir 2006 - Marlborough
Deeply translucent, blackish-Burgundy with a bright black cherry edged rim and smoky savoury, chocolatey aromas that have an earthy depth. Just a little sharp in the palate on the first taste but the underlying acidity is immediately balanced by the powerful, sweet-fruited, spicy flavours with a hint of lavender and wild thyme nuances amongst the black cherry and spiced red fruits. Smooth and velvety with a touch of lusciousness on the mouthfilling velvety finish and fantastic length, yet still very youthful with all the signs it will go a long way. 13% alc. $31.99. Screwcap.

Gibbston Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006
Deeply translucent purple red with intensity to the hue, this is smoky, savoury and lightly toasty on the nose with a bright, lifted palate that is full of sweet cherry and boysenberry fruits. A bigger, richer, riper wine with the gorgeous sweet fruit underpinned by dried herbs, smoke and earthy forest floor, a velvety texture and a long succulent savoury aftertaste. With its immediate appeal, everyone just loved it. 14% alc. $50.99. Screwcap.

Codice Tempranillo 2005 - Manchuela, Spain
A vibrant, lustrous black pinky-red with crimson edges and an opaque core, the gorgeously winey scents are full of purple fruits, cherries, kirsch and frambosia. Flushed with loads of sweet vanillin oak in the palate with chocolate and cherries, there's a touch of earth savouriness to balance the sweetness and a hint of tobacco and pepper. Super smooth and almost too easy to drink, this was easily the red wine bargain of the night. 13.5% alc. $18.99.

Starve Dog Lane Shiraz Viognier 2003 - Adelaide Hills, South Australia
An opaque wine, showing some age in its orange-tinged red, with earthy, smoky aromas that with hint of cigar. It’s an ultra-soft, big fruited, plummy wine with loads of vanillin oak, a thick groupy texture, peppery spice, a hint of liquorice, cigar box and chocolate. The viognier adds perfume and floral nuances but it's earthy and savoury too. However it really lacks acidity and needs to be drunk now. We were meant to taste the Tophy winning 2004, but the suppliers sent the wrong wine. 13.5% alc. $21.99. Screwcap.

Rockbare McLaren Vale Shiraz 2005
Opaque, dark red-black with a lustrous appearance. There’s a hint of peppermint on the nose, like peppermints in the glove box of the car, that carries through to the palate. Quite dry, tightly structured, peppery and gorgeously savoury with an earthy undercurrent, a hint of tar, succulent raspberry and cherry fruit, black forest chocolate and a long, satisfying and succulent finish. 15% alc. $19.99.

Saltram Mamre Brook Barossa Shiraz 2005
Deep black-red with a shiny lustre, it's totally opaque with just 1mm wide, bright crimson purple rims. Super seductive on the nose with chocolatey oak, black cherry fruit and hints of mint, it tastes dry, spicy and peppery with a youthful crispness, dusty tannins and delicious vanilla, cherry, chocolate and liquorice over a smoky, savoury backbone with a super succulent and totally smooth finish. Incredible intensity of flavour throughout and simply incredible value with change from a $20 note. Matured in French and American oak for 6 months, this gold medal winner also won Best Commercial Red Wine Trophy at the 2007 NZIWS. 15% alc. $18.99.

Buller Beverford Gold Botrytis Semillon 2006 - Rutherglen, Victoria
Light yellow gold, clear and bright with a gem-like glow, this is rich and concentrated with apple and botrytis-rich honey-scented aromas. Full of marmalade, apricot and toffee apple, it has fine acidity balancing the waxy sweetness and hinting of its potential to age. 375ml bottle. 10.5% alc. $24.99.

Valdespino El Candado Pedro Ximinez
A translucent to transparent coffee coloured wine with a yellow/orange glow and green tinges, this is astoundingly concentrated on the nose with its spiritous, treacle-like scents. A little reminiscent of Liqueur Muscat to our Southern Hemisphere palates, this thick-textured wine is full of toffee, muscatel raisins and slightly rancio characters and while incredibly sweet yet it leaves an impression of dryness. And for the quirky factor, the 375 ml bottle comes with a lock! 18% alc. $27.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 20 Feb 2008
Southern Hemisphere whites and Northern Hemisphere reds
Wines were tasted blind.

Brown Brothers Zibibbo NV - Victoria, Australia
Lightly spritzy and foamy with sweet floral musky scents and a burst of passionfruit, apple and fruit salad nectar-like flavours, it's clean, light and fresh and a very good example of New World sparkling Muscat. Serve ice cold, straight from the fridge and enjoy as a pre-dinner sorbet. Zibibbo is Italian for Muscat. 6% alc. $17.99.

Land of Fire Pinot Gris 2006 - Mendoza, Argentina
With hints of butter caramel on the nose, it's surprisingly dry and nutty to the taste and lightly fruity with pears and apples the most reminiscent fruit, crisp underlying acidity and a touch of sweetness to the finish. 13% alc. $17.99. Screwcap.

Mission Estate Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2007
Bright, clean and fruity with richness to the oily, slippery texture, peach and apricot fruit, a touch of oak spice and alcohol warmth to the finish which has great length and power. Oak is subtle and nicely integrated and there's a nutty, steely undercurrent too.13.5% alc. $12.99 special. Screwcap.

Cloudy Bay Te Koko Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005
A light gold coloured wine with powerful aromas of tropical guava and feijoa , a wild yeast funkiness and a touch of caramel oak complexity. Bright and tangy to the taste with exotic fruits, baked apple, an oiliness to the texture, a soft acid backbone and a long, powerful finish, this is an intriguing wine and so different. Perhaps the best yet. Hate it or love it, it always sells out, so get in quick if you want some. 13.5% alc. $43.99. Screwcap.

Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay 2006
Soft and peachy smelling, it's a gorgeous savoury tasting Chardonnay with malty, mealy flavours, well integrated spicy oak and a clean, zesty, citrussy undercurrent. Stylish, mouthfilling and long. 14.5% alc. $31.99. Screwcap.

Trentham Estate Viognier 2005 - Australia
Fragrantly scented with a hint of blossom and a glimmer of caramel, it's dry and nutty with an oily texture and upfront green grapey flavours that morph into apricot on the full, fleshy finish. Picking up some buttery characters too. 13.5% alc. $17.99 special. Screwcap.

Ruffino Chianti 2005 - Tuscany, Italy
Lighter, translucent Burgundy red colour. Sweetish smelling with a cherry overlay, this high-toned, light to medium bodied, soft, simple, rustic country wine has an earthy sweetness and macerated plum flavours that linger in the mouth. 12.5% alc. $16.99 special.

Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2002 - California, USA
With subtle savoury oak and redcurrant and chocolate on the nose, this is a medium-bodied to full-bodied wine with sweet brambly fruit over a savoury leathery backbone, tight grippy tannins, hints of anise, a touch of chocolate and a long, smoky spice-infused finish. The entry level wine in the Ravenswood Zin stable, the finish is soft and rounded with reasonable length. 13.5% alc. $19.99 special.

Domaine de Courteillac 2005 - Bordeaux Superieur AOC, Bordeaux, France
Deep black-red in colour, there's a savoury, deep brambly and slightly cedary character on the nose that immediately whisks you to Bordeaux. With firm tannins, smoky cedar, blackcurrant, fruit, dried herbs, leather, earth and graphite, a fine gravelly structure and wonderful depth of fruit sweetness, it shows why 2005 is regarded as one of the great Bordeaux vintages. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. 14% alc. $33.99.

Ravenswood Napa Valley Zinfandel 2002 - California, USA
A medium deep red, this sweet smelling wine has hints of chicory and mocha to its scent. Savoury and spicy to the taste with loads of juicy fruit sweetness, it's so clean, modern and New World after the European wines. With vanillin oak, a sweet, juicy, jammy mid palate, liquorice, cocoa, peppery spice and a firm finish, it is six years old but still drinking extremely well. 14.5% alc. $36.99.

Chateau de Frances ‘Les Cerisiers’ 2005 - Cotes de Francs (right bank), Bordeaux
Deep, inky, shiny red black, it looks New World but the aromas whisk you right back to France. Savoury, earthy and spicy with a blackberry fruit richness, it’s big, bold and deliciously tasty with bright fruit, oak spice, a smoky cedary leathery backbone, dried herbs and concentrated brambly fruit. Concentrated, medium to full-bodied with crushed velvety tannins and a savoury finish, it's 80% Merlot made by the former owners of Cheval Blanc and offers quality Bordeaux at an affordable price. 14.5% alc. $35.99.

Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva 2003 - Tuscany, Italy
Deep dark red with fading orange-red edges, this is a strong smelling, rich, earthy, full-bodied, luscious, powerful red with soft furry tannins, cough lollies, chocolate, leather, iodine, dried herb, salted liquorice and a rustic, gamey backbone and a long, savoury, fleshy finish. Reminiscent of the stinky 2001 in many ways, it has been aged in oak casks for 24 months. 13.5% alc. $48.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 13 Feb 2008
The Trans Tasman Challenge - NZ versus Australia
Thirteen wines were tasted blind - all blind.

The Pre Taster:
Mother Cluckers Gisborne Chardonnay 2005
Clean and youthful with a fruity peach aroma, there's plenty of brash fruity brightness to the creamy textured flavours with citrus, pineapple, a mealy undercurrent and a touch of butterscotch to the finish. Made by Coopers Creek, most people would never guess it was unoaked. Screwcap. 13.5% alc. $10.99 special.

The Challenge Wines were tasted in pairs
Crossroads Destination Series Chardonnay 2006 - Hawkes' Bay
Smoky, toasty, ripe peach aromas and sweet-fruited toasty flavours with a dry nutty backbone, savoury oak, oatmeal influences and loads of fleshy tropical fruit and stonefruit. This light gold coloured, smooth, creamy textured wine screams its regionality and is drinking beautifully right now. Screwcap. 14% alc. $16.99.

Cape Mentelle Margaret River Chardonnay 2006
Paler in colour with subtle nutty oak and peachy scents, this bright, zesty, high-toned style is nutty and linear in its delivery with hints of lime and grapefruit and a gravelly undercurrent. Classy oak initially hides in the background but becomes more prominent on the expansive, mouthfilling finish. It's typical of the Margaret River in its brightness and complexity and while a perfect match to seafood now, it is also a great cellaring proposition. Screwcap. 13.5% alc. $39.99.

Tasters preferred the Crossroads with its softness and drink-now appeal. I voted for the Crossroads for this reason too, it's a helluva good drinking wine, but the Cape Mentelle is the serious cellarer.

Jacob’s Creek Steingarten Riesling 2003 - South Australia
Pale yellow gold and a little oily in appearance, this has concentrated lime and orange marmalade scents. It's a dry, austere, oily textured, lime-rich, kero-infused style with richness and weight. There's a touch of play-dough along with tropical fruit and citrus peel that ripples though the palate and some apparent sweetness to the long, zesty finish. One of the greatest expressions of Barossa Riesling, it could last forever. Gold Medal – NZ International Wine Show. Screwcap. 12% alc. $30.99.

John Forrest Collection Riesling 2005 - Marlborough
Straw gold coloured with concentrated lemon, lime and grapefruit scents, it's reasonably dry and brightly zesty with concentrated dried tropical fruit and hints of honey. Slightly pithy with a gravelly texture yet rich and racy with a powerful finish that goes on and on. Developing nicely, starting to drink well and a great cellar prospect too. Screwcap. 12% alc. $49.99.

New Zealand won the Riesling vote. I loved both wines, but then I love Riesling.

Waipara Hills Waipara Riesling 2007
Fruity and fragrant with dried tropical fruit scents, it's clean and bright to the taste with moderate acidity, a touch of oiliness to the texture, the slightest hint of toast, youthful bubble gum esters and loads of juicy tangelo with honeysuckle and a lime-infused finish. A delicious fruity style that will have wide appeal. Gold Medal – Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Screwcap. 11.7% alc. $16.99 special.

Brown Brothers Orange Muscat & Flora 2007 - Victoria, Australia
Golden yellow in colour, there's something soapy about the floral aroma, like bubble bath scents, perhaps. Quite thick and unctuous in texture, it's a sweet, late harvest style with creamed honey, a touch of beeswax, hints of toast and lanolin. Light and refreshing and perfect when chilled. Cork. 375ml. 9.5% alc. $16.99.

Although I voted for the Waipara Hills Riesling, the overall result was a tie.

Pipers Brook Pinot Noir 2005 - Tasmania
Light Burgundy red with moderate depth, the aroma is fruity and lollyish and the flavours are smoky and savoury with strawberry fruit, a touch of spice, creamy oak and firrm coarse-textured tannins. It's Pinot Noir, but not as we know it because most of the room went for the other option. Cork.
13.5% alc. $37.99.

Mount Dottrel Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005
Burgundy red with a ruby glow, this *is* Pinot Noir as we know it. Smoky, savoury and just a little funky on the nose with a hint of varnish, this rich, velvety textured wine has an earthy richness, sweet red and black cherry fruit, hints of mushroom, varnishy oak and a subtle undercurrent of chocolate. Blue Gold award - Sydney International. Screwcap. 14% alc. $27.99 special or $26.99 p.b. on case buys.

New Zealand easily won this Pinot Noir challenge.

Mills Reef Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2006
Dark deep red with a crimson glow, the complex earthy, savoury, leathery aromas are infused with sweet vanillin oak and red cherry fruit that carry through to the palate where it shows the typically leathery Bordeaux character well. There's great depth of red plummy fruits with a touch of cassis, smoky oak and firm tannins and a pleasing fruit sweetness lingering with cedar on the finish. Gold Medal Bragato Wine Awards. Screwcap. 14% alc. $22.99/$18.99.

d’Arenberg Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Deep purple red, almost black, the nuggetty, savoury, spicy aromas are flushed with cherry and plum. Rich, sweet, juicy and jammy with a peppermint overtone, a herbaceous brambly undercurrent and succulent, mouth coating velvety tannins,this is a big, big wine, worthy of its trophy win and is developing beautifully in the bottle. Gold Medal & Trophy – NZ International Wine Show. Screwcap. 14.5% alc. $66.99.

Australia was resoundingly triumphant in this Cabernet challenge

Beresford McLaren Vale Shiraz 2006
Deep pink red with a black depth to the opaque core, this can only be described as a chocolate lovers wine. There are hints of chocolate amongst the smoky savoury oak and red berry aromas with abundant 'liquid chocolate' in the palate with loads of peppery spice, succulent cherry and blackberry fruit, a piquant tang and a long, juicy finish. With integrated creamy oak and soft velvety tannins, this is drinking beautifully now and for some, it was Wine of the Night. Screwcap. 14.5% alc. $20.99 special.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Syrah 2005
Opulent purple/red, deep and shiny. Vibrant black pepper on the nose with a hint of a marmite character and savoury, spicy, peppery and earthy flavours with plum jam, liquorice, chocolate and iodine with a hint of tar and a suggestion of wild roses. Deep and profound but still very tight in its tannin structure. Gold Medal – Royal Easter Wine Awards. Screwcap. 13.5% alc. $36.99.

The Shiraz/Syrah result was a tie although on the night my vote went to the Aussie because I liked it's voluptuousness and sheer drinkability.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 6 Feb 2008
Wine with Maori names or connections
Wines were tasted blind.

Waipara Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
This straw gold wine simply screams summer sun. It's long and leggy with crisp, crunchy, juicy greens across the whole sauvignon spectrum, a touch of honey in the dressing and punchy acidity keeping the flavours fresh and bright. Exotic flavours reminiscent of kiwano (horned melon) linger on the tasty finish. Screwcap.
13.4% alc. $15.99 special.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2006 - Auckland
Light golden coloured, smoky scented, full-bodied and toasty with creamy oak, grilled stonefruit and a lovely crisp seam of underlying sweet citrus, this is a gorgeous, rounded, smooth flowing mouthful of delicious chardonnay wine. Gold Medal. Screwcap.
14% alc. $37.99.

Goldwater Zell Waiheke Island Chardonnay 2004
Deep yellow gold, hinting of age, this mellow toasty wine is oily and spicy with fleshy peach over a nutty backbone with a grapefruit undercurrent and hints of lanolin. Rich, full-bodied and savoury with power and length, but unfortunately drying out just a little. Screwcap.
14% alc. $30.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Waikahu Chardonnay 2005 - Hawkes Bay
Light gold in colour and fairly restrained on the nose perhaps because of chilling, this savoury, lightly oily, barrel fermented style tastes youthful with soft acids and juicy melon and stone fruit. It's beautifully balanced and creamy and slips down rather easily. Excellent. Gold Medal. Screwcap.
14% alc. $37.99.

Moutere Hills Nelson Riesling 2005
A rich, full-bodied weighty style of Riesling, it is quite dry and picking up hints of ‘kero’, which makes it smell a little Aussie-like. Developing nicely and picking up some older Riesling intricacies, yet still fresh and zesty with a light spritzy tingle and concentrated oily lime flavours. Gold Medal – NZ International Wine Show.
11.5% alc. $20.99 special.

Waimea Nelson Gewurztraminer 2007
Light gold and leggy in appearance, it's true to variety with its heady aroma of violet and rose musk with hints of citrus. Although quite dry, it's a big, broad, oily textured style full of spice and classic flavours of Turkish Delight and lychee fruit with a characteristically long, mouth-coating finish. Screwcap.
14.5% alc. $21.99.

Montana Patutahi Gewurztraminer 2005 - Gisborne
Not overtly pungent, just faintly floral on the nose, but definitely a sweetie to the taste - sweet and luscious with a biscuity backbone and a creamy richness, pear jam, hints of apricot and just a sprinkle of ginger. Textural and rich with some oiliness to the texture and soft acidity, but without the flamboyant signature of the Gewurztraminer, which makes it more reminiscent of a luscious, Alsace-like Pinot Gris. Screwcap.
14% alc. $30.99.

Triplebank Awatere Valley Pinot Noir 2007 - Marlborough
Bright pinky-red with reasonable density to the colour, this screams sweet and savoury. There's upfront fruitiness yet it is rich and savoury, vibrantly spicy and varietal earthy with a touch of game, juicy fruit and a smoky finish, this is a luscious style for pinot. A very good precursor for promise of the vintage. Screwcap.
13% alc. $19.99 special.

Main Divide Tehau Selection Waipara Pinot Noir 2006
A much more complex, fine textured, silky pinot - a wine of finesse and class. It's earthy and savoury with firm tannins, hints of Burgundy-like funk, a touch of chocolate and sweet plum and tart cherry fruit balanced by a fine seam of acidity. A stunning pinot noir at the price point. Screwcap.
14% alc. $33.99.

Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir 2006
Savoury with a sweetish overlay, this is stylish, refined, full-bodied pinot has a touch of gamey, savoury funk, fruit in the cherry and tamarillo spectrum, smoky bacon-like oak, spice and hints of anise. Although quite youthful and saying, "I need more time," it has wonderful mouthfeel and texture. The pedigree is definitely there. Screwcap.
13.5% alc. $72.99.

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2005 - Hawkes Bay
A dense rich, deep coloured, sweet-fruited succulent red with a classic cedary French oak aroma and hints of violets, there's a tarry, nuggetty, savoury, earthy undercurrent to the sweet plummy fruit with hints of chocolate, cake spice, vanillin oak. With firm dusty tannins and great length, there's a Bordeaux character wine to this blend of 43% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petite Verdot. 13.5% alc. $31.99 special.

Mudbrick Waiheke Island Reserve Merlot Cabernets 2005
Deep dark red in colour, there's a chocolatey richness to the aroma and a creamy chocolatey character to the dense, rich, succulent palate. A big, rich wine with a savoury, earthy undercurrent, juicy brambly fruit, spicy oak and firm tannins. A fleshy style and developing nicely. Screwcap.
13.8% alc. $39.99.

Note: The New Zealand wines listed on this page have been cross-catalogued to my wine reviews by grape variety - check out my Wine Review Index.

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